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«TOWARDS NAKBA: THE FAILURE OF THE BRITISH MANDATE OF PALESTINE, 1922-1939 A Thesis Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State ...»

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Jabotinsky’s entire platform rested on the reacquisition of Transjordan and appropriation of empty lands for Jewish settlement. In 1924, the British government estimated the population of Transjordan to be 200,000, with most of the land unsettled. In Jabotinsky’s plan all settled Arab lands would be left alone but by settling the vast emptiness of Transjordan, Jabotinsky hoped, a Jewish majority could be achieved. He demanded the removal of the quotas for Jewish immigration, which would open the door for mass Jewish evacuations from places like Poland and Latvia to Palestine. Jabotinsky also demanded that the World Zionist Congress raise “a national Jewish loan, guaranteed by a land fund.” The land fund would be used to purchase land from Arabs.

Jabotinsky used the platform not only to articulate his vision of “Eretz Israel” but also to attack Weizmann. He demanded “The election of the member of the Jewish Agency Executive by the Zionist congress, and the expansion of the right of election to the

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congress by the entire Jewish population of Eretz Israel, all contributors to Zionist funds, and the members of all Jewish Societies engaged in the building up of Zionism.” 122 Jabotinsky believed that Weizmann and the Zionist Organization were far too insular. He sought to shift both the composition and the policies of the organization by broadening its electorate. Various Jewish communities would elect delegates to attend the Zionist Conferences; the delegates would then elect a president from within their own ranks.

Weizmann’s response to Jabotinsky’s plan and his politics was harsh. He wrote, I need not pay Jabotinsky any compliments, and he does not want them…What he says might have very well been applied to a land like Rhodesia. Rhodesia was an empty country which had no population, it is not a land burdened with a great tradition. It is not a land which is in the center of great historical movements… (the Zionist Congress) must recognize that Palestine is not Rhodesia, but that 600,000 Arabs are there who, in the eyes of international justice, have just as much right to their life in Palestine as we do to our national home. 123 Weizmann ended his response to Jabotinsky’s proposed plan with the statement “We must take Palestine as it is, with the sand dunes and the rocks, with the Arabs and the Jews as they come. That is our work. Everything else is make-believe.” 124 Weizmann and Jabotinsky represented the poles of Zionist thought in the 1920’s.

Weizmann argued for Jewish settlement on the 300,000 dunams of Palestine with respect to Arab rights and a Jewish Agency politically independent of the British government.

His goal was a Jewish state in which Arabs would play an active role. Jabotinsky argued for Jewish settlement involving the whole of Palestine and Transjordan. He envisioned a Jewish State in which the Jews ruled by numerical superiority. The gulf between the two men was so great the Jabotinsky left the Zionist Organization in 1923 and established the Shavit, pp. 192- 193.

Weizmann, Letters, Series B, Volume 1, pp. 462-466.

Weizmann, Letters, Series B, Volume 1, p. 466.

Revisionist Party. He then founded the right-wing Revisionist Zionist Alliance within the Zionist Congress in 1925.

In addition to the fracture between Weizmann's faction and Jabotinsky's Revisionist Zionists, a third group arose to challenge the power of both: Labour Zionism.

Ideologically, Labour Zionism was based on socialist principles such as collectivism and the importance of trade unions. The chief philosophers of Labour Zionism were Moses Hess, Ber Borochov, and Nayhum Syrkin. Hess was a contemporary of Karl Marx and advocate of the Marxist principle of religion as an opiate of the masses. Later, Hess would become a Jewish nationalist and claim that socialism was the method that would lead Jews to auto-emancipate themselves; he first theorized the combination of Jewish nationalism and socialist ideals that would become the foundation of Labour Zionism.

Ber Borochov and Nayhum Syrkin were contemporaries in the early phases of Zionism.

Syrkin first advocated that Jewish immigrants to Palestine should live in collective settlements, which was the precursor to Kibbutzim. Ber Borochov founded the Poale Zion party in 1906 aimed at uniting Zionist workers and the creation of a socialist Jewish state. Labour Zionism remained on the fringes of the Zionist movement until the arrival of David Ben-Gurion, who moved it from the periphery of Zionism to the mainstream and from Europe to Palestine. 125 David Ben-Gurion was born David Grun in Poland in 1888. He was a second generation Zionist. In 1906, Ben-Gurion immigrated to Ottoman held Palestine. He studied law at Istanbul University and in 1915 was expelled from Palestine by the Ottoman authorities because of his avowedly Zionist leanings. After fleeing to the United For more on Hess, Syrkin, and Borochov,see Shimoni, pp. 55- 60, 166-232; Flapan, pp. 178-79; Teveth, Ben Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs, p. 41.

States, Ben-Gurion returned to Palestine in 1918 with the Jewish Legion and settled with his family there at the conclusion of the First World War.

In Palestine, Poale Zion members boycotted Jewish businesses that employed Arabs because they undermined the goal of creating a self-sufficient Jewish state. Labour Zionists emphasized the construction of Kibbutzim, which became their stronghold of power within Palestine. In addition to Kibbutzim, Labour Zionism was very popular in cities like Tel Aviv and Haifa.





Before 1920, there were two Labour Zionist parties in Palestine. David BenGurion belonged to the Poale Zion, which focused on urban working class Jews. The other party was the Hapoel Hatzair, which focused on Jews living in the Kibbutzim. In 1920, Poale Zion and Hapoel Hatzair created a single union called the Histadrut, over which Ben-Gurion quickly took control. 126 Politically, Ben-Gurion opposed Weizmann on two points. First, Ben-Gurion argued that immigration was vital to the establishment of a Jewish state. In Ben-Gurion's perception, if Jews were not a numerical majority, the Zionist project would ultimately fail. Ben-Gurion's second point was that Weizmann's success in recruiting non-Zionists into the Jewish Agency was counterproductive to the goal of Zionism. The majority of the non-Zionist members were wealthy capitalists who would seek employees outside of the Histadrut's authority. This undermined the socialist principles on which the Histadrut was founded. Weizmann and Ben-Gurion did agree on the importance of industry and the construction of Jewish settlements.

See: Smith, pp. 120-122; Teveth, Burning Ground, pp 181-182.

The relationship between Ben-Gurion's Labour Zionists and Jabotinsky's Revisionists was hostile. 127 Jabotinsky felt that the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine rested on the immigration of the middle class and private investment. 128 Jabotinsky detested Labour Zionism and the Histadrut’s emphasis on socialism because he felt that collectivity hindered Jewish ascendancy. Teveth argues that Ben-Gurion viewed the Revisionists as a threat to the Zionist goal of creating a Jewish state because they were unwilling to work with the British and sought out confrontation with the Arabs.

As Labour Zionism became the mainstream of Zionist thought, revisionists sought to undermine the Histadrut's efforts to encourage Jews to employ union workers.

Revisionists sponsored strikebreaking practices such as supplying Revisionist workers when Histadrut members went on strike. 129 Jabotinsky called the Histadrut “a gross cancer in the body of the Yishuv, growing ever more malignant.” 130 He vowed that the Revisionists would “wage the war against this malignant growth until the end.” 131 Ben-Gurion refrained from making public comments against Jabotinsky until 1930 when he compared Jabotinsky to Hitler. He said, “I read…Hitler’s organ, and it seemed to me that I was reading Jabotinsky in Doar ha-Yom. Same words, same style, same spirit.” 132 Ben-Gurion went as far to dub Jabotinsky “Vladimir Hitler” in public speeches. The rift that existed between Ben-Gurion and Jabotinsky never healed. Durring the late 1920’s and 1930’s Palestinian Zionism comprised two totally independent and See Schechtman, Vol. 2, pp. 189, 215, 226, 230, and Ch. 13.

Smith, pp. 122-24.

Smith, pp. 122-24 Shabtai Teveth, The Burning Ground, p. 412.

Teveth, Burning Ground, p. 412.

Teveth, Burning Ground, p. 414.

ideologically incompatible groups that far overshadowed the earlier split between Weizmann and Jabotinsky.

With regard to the Arabs of Palestine, Ben-Gurion had a unique stand. He argued that any agreements with Palestinian Arabs had to be contingent on Arab acquiescence to Zionist rule. In Ben Gurion's perception, the Arabs had to accept that the Zionists were economically and militarily stronger than they were and that the Zionists had to reinforce that impression as much as they could. Ben-Gurion supported Arab independence, but Palestine belonged to the Jews.

Ben-Gurion’s attitude towards the Arabs evolved as the Zionists gained more power. 133 Early in his career, Ben-Gurion had argued that the Arabs in Palestine had the right to view Palestine as their homeland. By 1918, however, Ben-Gurion’s opinions had changed. He still recognized an Ara’ right to remain in Palestine but he felt that the Arabs were incapable of developing industry in Palestine and because of that they had no right to stop Zionist expansion, which he argued would bring industrial progress and economic prosperity. In 1924, Ben-Gurion stated that “We do not recognize the rights of Arabs to rule the country, since Palestine is undeveloped and awaits its builders.” 134 In 1928, BenGurion argued that the Arabs had no rights to the Negev Desert because it was uninhabited and in 1930 he argued that the Arabs had no rights to the Jordan River. 135 Ben-Gurion argued that the only things to which the Arabs had rights was their homes and what they had built; the Zionists had claim to everything else.

Ben-Gurion’s policies towards the Arabs highlight one of the contradictions of Labour Zionism. Shabtai Teveth argues that the contradiction lay in the irreconcilable See Teveth, Ben-Gurion, p. 38.

Teveth, Ben-Gurion, p. 38.

Teveth, Ben- Gurion, p. 38 nature of Socialism and Zionism. Socialism dictates that all materials and resources are divided among the people equally. If applied in Palestine, this policy would have allocated the majority of existing land and resources to the Arabs who vastly outnumbered the Jews. Zionism dictated that Jewish rights and considerations in Palestine held precedence over all other considerations. Ben-Gurion did not hide the fact that he did not care how the Arabs felt about what his and the other Zionist factions were doing. The Arabs were weak, while the Zionists were strong.

By 1930, the Ahdut Ha'Avodah, formerly the Poale Zion, and the Hapoel Hatzair merged to form the Mapai. The consolidation of Labour Zionism into a single party marked the beginning of a shift in the center of Zionist power from Europe to Palestine.

Weizmann's faction unified with the Labour Zionists to create a mainstream of Zionist thought centered on the creation of Jewish state in Palestine but willing to work with the British. Because of the existing rivalries between Weizmann's faction, Labour Zionism, and Revisionist Zionism, the split between the new mainstream Zionism and Revisionist Zionism crystallized. This split formed the poles of modern Israeli politics with the mainstream holding power until 1977 and the victory of the direct descendants of the Revisionist Zionism, the Likud Party.

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In the previous chapters, we have examined the establishment of Palestinian Arab nationalism and the fracturing of the Zionist movement within Palestine. Despite continued anti- Zionist rhetoric from Hajj Amin and his nationalists, and pro-colonial Jewish expansionist rhetoric by Ze’ev Jabotinsky and his followers, the period was relatively peaceful. This peace came to an end at the Haram in 1929. By 1939, Jabotinsky had been expelled from Palestine, David Ben-Gurion’s Labour Zionism had become the mainstream, the Zionist split had taken on frightening military proportions, and the Arab nationalists led by Hajj Amin had collapsed. There is unanimous agreement among historians of the Mandate period that the Kotel riots in 1929 and the Arab revolt from 1936 to 1939 were the major factors that led to the failure of the British Mandate of Palestine.

This chapter examines that failure. The first section outlines the 1929 riots and the coalescence of the Haganah and Irgun. The second section examines the origin, outbreak, and aftermath of the Arab Revolt of 1936. The third section explains the British response to the violence put in the form of the Peel Commission and the MacDonald White Paper.

Shepherd, Wasserstein, Joseph, and Kayyali assert that the Zionists were superior to their Arab counterparts militarily and economically. 136 This argument, while correct, neglects the biggest advantage that the Zionists had over the Arabs. The Zionists, as Charles Smith asserts, held positions in the Mandate government and had access to the British authorities. This access to the Mandate government and to British policymakers See: Shepherd Ploughing Sand, pp.126- 244; Wasserstein, The British in Palestine 1917-1929; Kayyali, Palestine: a Modern History, pp. 228-231; Joseph, British Rule in Palestine, Ch 10-11.

gave the Zionists the freedom they need to create an independent economy and the war machine that would later crush the Arab armies in 1948.

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The Kotel, or the Wailing Wall, is both the remnant of the Second Jewish Temple and part of the Al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif, which contains the Dome of the Rock.

Ottoman law had forbidden Jews from erecting any decorations on their religious holidays as the Dome of the Rock held dominance over the site. The Mandate government decided that Ottoman law was to be observed in regards to the Wailing Wall.



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